Philosophy Questions

* Length requirement: a paragraph or two to answer fully depending on the question.

Assigned Reading Comprehension Questions

Here are the questions for this week. These questions will serve as the pool from which I will construct the mid-term exam. Note: not all questions are assigned to an individual student. You should answer those on your own. As always, let me know if you have questions.

Your name appears below your assigned question.

  1. What is the “ignorant blunder” that Mill wishes to guard against in his description of utility? (6)
  2. What is the foundation of morals? In other words, what does the theory ‘utilitarianism’ claim?  (7) Williams
  3. What are only things desirable as ends?  What does it mean to say something is desirable as an end?  (7)
  4. egoism: the ethical doctrine that morality has its foundations in self-interest.  Why is utilitarianism not egoism? (7)
  5. egalitarianism: the ethical doctrine that the good or goods should be distributed equally, fairly or justly.  Why is utilitarianism not egalitarianism? (7)
  6. Why would someone say that “utilitarianism is a doctrine worthy of swine?” (7)
  7. What is Mill’s response to the objection that “utilitarianism is a doctrine worthy of swine?” (7-12)
  8. “It may be objected that many who are capable of the higher pleasures occasionally, under the influence of temptation, postpone them to the lower.” To what is this an objection?  What is Mill’s response? (10)
  9. How is it possible to decide which are the best pleasures? (7-12)
  10. Suppose I tell you that working with scientists at the University of Missouri, I have built an amazing new pleasure machine.  Anyone who enters my machine will be guaranteed the maximum amount of physical pleasure for the remainder of his or life.  Unfortunately, entering requires the loss of rational thought.  According to Mill, not many people would enter my machine.  Using textual references, explain why he thinks this. (9-10)
  11. Carefully explain the three sentences at the end of the paragraph on p. 10 that begin “It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied…” (10)
  12. Explain the objection that happiness cannot be the rational purpose of life.  Why would someone make this objection?  (12)
  13. What is Mill’s response to the objection that happiness cannot be the rational purpose of life?  (12-13)
  14. Explain Mill’s view on the constituents of a good and satisfied life. (13)
  15. What is Mill’s view on “all the grand sources…of human suffering?” (15)
  16. What is Mill’s view of self-sacrifice? (16-17)
  17. On pages 16-17, Mill says “In the golden rule of Jesus of Nazareth, we read the complete spirit of the ethics of utility.”  Explain why he would claim this. (16-17)
  18. Why would someone object that the disinterested character that utilitarianism demands is unreasonable to expect? (18-19)
  19. Why would someone object that the promotion of general welfare that utilitarianism demands is unreasonable to expect?  (18-19)
  20. What is Mill’s response to the objection that the disinterested character that utilitarianism demands is unreasonable to expect?  (18-19)
  21. What is Mill’s response to the objection that the promotion of general welfare that utilitarianism demands is unreasonable to expect?  (18-19)
  22. Carefully explain the drowning example on p. 18.  What point is Mill making? (18-19)
  23. On page 19, Mill says “the great majority of good actions are intended not for the benefit of the world, but for that of individuals, of which the good of the world is made up.”  What does this mean and why would Mill say it? (18-19)
  24. Carefully explain the sentence on p. 19 that begins “In the case of abstinences indeed…”  What point is Mill making? (18-19)
  25. Explain the objection that utilitarianism renders men cold and unsympathizing.  What is Mill’s response?  (20-21)